Former patients of rogue breast surgeon Ian Paterson may have died of “unnatural deaths” two senior coroners have said.
Senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, Louise Hunt, and area coroner Emma Brown have said they believe there is evidence to suspect victims of Ian Paterson, who was jailed for 17 counts of wounding with intent in 2017, died unnaturally as a result of his actions.
They now plan to open four inquests into the deaths of patients who died from breast cancer after being treated by Paterson.
Paterson is serving 20 years in jail after his conviction for carrying out unnecessary surgery on hundreds of women over a period of more than 20 years.
West Midlands Police asked the Birmingham and Solihull Coroner to investigate a number of deaths of patients who were treated by Ian Paterson and who later died from breast cancer.
A website set up for the coroners’ investigation was updated on Friday with a new statement.
It said: “Senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, Louise Hunt, and area coroner Emma Brown have commenced a preliminary investigation to identify whether there is any evidence that gives reason to suspect that any of the former patients of Mr Paterson died an unnatural death as a result of Ian Paterson’s actions.
“Following preliminary investigations, the senior and area Coroner believe there is evidence to have reason to suspect that some of those deaths may be unnatural.
“In accordance with the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, inquests will now be opened in relation to four former patients of Mr Paterson.”
Deborah Douglas, a victim of Paterson who leads a support group in Solihull, told The Independent: "I have spoken to so many women over the years who have since died. This is what I have always known and fought for.
"Paterson lied about pathology reports and people did develop secondary cancers."
She said that if the coroners concluded people had died as a result of Paterson's actions then West Midlands Police should "absolutely consider bringing new criminal charges against him."
Earlier this year an inquiry into Paterson’s actions found more than 1,000 patients had needless operations performed on them. The inquiry found Paterson treated more than 6,600 patients at Spire Healthcare between 1998 and 2011 as well as 4,400 NHS patients. The report by former Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James also revealed he had carried out unnecessary surgery on children.
The report found Patterson was “hiding in plain sight” for years and allowed to harm hundreds of women because of a healthcare system that was “dysfunctional at almost every level” and failed to act when warnings were made about the surgeon.
Lawyer Kashmir Uppal, who represented hundreds of Paterson's victims told The Independent: "This reflects the fact the coroner must have very serious concerns to take this action. It would not be done lightly and will open up wounds for many of Paterson's former victims. I would say the coroner must have very serious concerns.
"This corroborates what we have been saying for years. This man was a menace. His patients didn't die because of the natural progression of their disease. They died because the treatment he gave to them was negligent and intentional. He was told time and time again to stop but he continued carrying out the tissue sparing mastectomy and he left that toxic breast cancer tissue there and some went on to develop secondary cancers."
She added: "This raises serious questions about whether further criminal charges need to be considered."
West Midlands Police was approached for comment.